Troublesome reproduction: surrogacy under scrutiny

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In recent years, the emergence of transnational commercial surrogacy arrangements has prompted consideration of how and whether it is possible to bridge claims for reproductive rights from involuntarily childless couples and singles, many of whom historically have been excluded from reproduction, with the rights and well-being of the reproductive assisters. In this article, I suggest that a fruitful starting point for a conversation on how to tackle such a challenge is to examine the way in which surrogacy is conceptualized. Thus, I examine how scholars have queried surrogacy, asking how different conceptualizations of who this reproductive phenomenon concerns have led to the formulations of different types of ‘troubles’ of surrogacy. I delineate three different conceptualizations of surrogacy. Firstly, how surrogacy as a way to make parents has troubled scholars because of the conflation of reproduction with consumption, thereby making reproduction a matter of financial resource. Secondly, the trouble emerging when surrogacy is conceptualized as baby-making relates to how surrogacy turns babies and bodies into commodities. Thirdly, surrogacy understood as a phenomenon that concerns the women gestating and birthing the children has brought attention to issues of exploitation. These different formulations of trouble point towards tensions in the literature, while also offering reminders that surrogacy is not one thing alone; a finding that provides an opening for new forms of reproductive justice. This brings me to propose a rethinking of the notion of ‘reproductive assistance’ arguing in favour of moving away from substitution and transaction towards a relational being-together.




Stuvøy, I. (2018). Troublesome reproduction: surrogacy under scrutiny. Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online, 7, 33–43.

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